I watched Peter Jackson’s first Hobbit movie tonight. Most previous reviews have ranged from lukewarm to mostly negative. All I can say is that I strongly disagree. Peter Jackson has done a great job of capturing the atmosphere and themes of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book. And the actors playing the key characters – Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield, and Gandalf – bring them to life very effectively. You really get a strong sense of Bilbo’s transition from homebody to adventurer, and of the dwarves’ longing to recover their lost home (which, interestingly, is portrayed slightly more sympathetically in the movie than the book). The key confrontation between Bilbo and Gollum is very well done too. I also disagree with those who criticize Jackson’s use of advanced film techniques and CGI. With a few exceptions, these worked very effectively.
Like many, I was skeptical of Jackson’s decision to turn a book with less than 300 pages into a massive trilogy of three-hour movies. To do so, he included a lot of back story and parallel incidents that Tolkien developed only in the appendices to The Lord of the Rings and other later writings. There is also some added material that was developed by Jackson himself. Not all of this additional plot works well. Although it was fun to see Radagast the Brown brought to life, I’m not sure incorporating him into the The Hobbit adds much of value to the story. Overall, however, the additional plot elements mostly work well, and don’t detract from the main story.
We won’t be able to make a final judgment on Jackson’s interpretation of The Hobbit until the next two movies come out. But the first one is a great start. If you loved the book, and especially if you loved Peter Jackson’s earlier Lord of the Rings movies, I think you’ll be favorably impressed. I know I was.